From mountain pose to mamahood

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When you think of yoga, maybe you envision a linen-clad man twisting himself into a pretzel, or the chic Lululemon-wearing women carrying their lattes around your neighbourhood. But, if you’re expecting or have recently given birth, neither vision is probably comforting. Neither contorting your body nor wearing super tight clothes is likely to be your idea of a good time right now, when your bits feel a bit wobbly!

But, this 5,000-year-old practice of exercises and breathing that strengthens the entire body and soothes the mind is perfect for everyone – and it works great for pregnant women and new mums. Prenatal yoga can be great for a mum-to-be’s body and also helps her prepare for childbirth. Postnatal yoga is a gentle and effective way for the body to recover and heal from childbirth.

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Perfect for pregnancy

Unlike many sports or exercise programmes, yoga really allows us to focus on the specific areas of the body where it’s needed most. On a physical level, yoga postures can be adapted to pregnancy to help strengthen your body and create flexibility. You can practise positions and movements that will be useful during pregnancy and also labour and birth, allowing you to prepare for the big day, while boosting your vitality, reducing stress and easing the common aches and pains of pregnancy.

Breathing exercises relax the nervous system and bring increased oxygen supply to your body and, therefore, to your developing baby. These breathing techniques can also help you relax and focus your energy – which will come in handy once you’re a mum.

Strengthening your body and improving your posture, understanding how your body works during pregnancy and childbirth, and learning techniques for breathing and relaxation will all be invaluable tools on your journey to a smooth and gentle birth and entry to motherhood.

Even if you’ve never done yoga before, you can begin your prenatal yoga practice as early in your pregnancy as you’d like. A gentle practice poses no additional risk in a normal, low-risk pregnancy. A regular practice can help you achieve a smoother pregnancy and birth, and also an easier recovery. Listen to your body and seek medical advice if you have any doubts to ensure you find the right routine for you.

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Postnatal practice

Postnatal yoga classes are a great way to support the body’s recovery after birth. In classes designed specifically for postnatal women, you’ll practise postures, breathing techniques and meditation, which support healing, relaxation and toning. And you’ll have the opportunity to connect with other new mothers in a supportive and healthy environment.

You don’t need to have practised yoga before to join a postnatal yoga class. From six weeks postpartum and with the OK from your healthcare provider, you can begin a postnatal yoga practice.

Always practise yoga with a certified instructor, listen to your body and ask your healthcare provider’s advice if you have any doubts.

Jeanne Hauguel is a doula, helping families through birth and postpartum, and also a certified pre- and postnatal yoga teacher. Click www.doulabirthstory.com or www.yogasamsara.com to learn more.

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